What Is Thrifting & How Does It Help the Environment?

thrifting 101

Thrifting is fun. Everyone wants to save money when shopping. But your frugality does a lot more than help you get the best deals: it helps the environment, too. Anyone can work towards reducing their environmental impact when buying:

  • Clothes
  • Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Anything

What Is Thrifting?

What Is Thrifting?

Thrifting is a way to buy used items at a discount. If you’ve ever driven around neighborhoods on a Saturday morning, there’s a good chance that you’ve come across people who are trying to sell their used items at a garage sale.

Garage sales are thrifting.

However, if you want to go thrifting without scouring for a garage sale, you can do so at:

  • Flea markets
  • Thrift stores
  • Vintage stores

If you have a local Goodwill near you, there are amazing deals available all of the time. Thrifting clothes is the main reason people step into this nonprofit, but you can find nearly anything for sale in the store, including books, electronics, dishware, furniture (on occasion) and much more.

Why Is Thrift Shopping Good for The Environment?

Fast fashion is a trend that is immensely popular, with stores like SHEIN and other outlets. Consumers go into stores or shop on their online shops, scouring for deals that are too good to be true.

You may be able to buy a shirt for $5, but the dark side of this trend is that many companies can only offer these prices by exploiting others. Behind the scenes, someone is working long hours, possibly in dangerous conditions and earning very little to produce these clothes.

People are also far more likely to discard these clothes because fashion cycles are very short.

Annually, 92 million tons of fabric end up in landfills. Forecasts predict that emissions from fast fabric will increase by 50% by 2030. Unfortunately, this is just one small part of the issue that thrifting can help with

Thrifting can be rebuying anything.

When you thrift, you make a positive impact on the environment in so many ways:

#1 – Keep Items from Landing in Landfills

A benefit of thrifting that we touched on slightly already is that items stay out of landfills. Many consumers try to help the environment by recycling waste, especially glass, plastics and paper. You may sort your trash into non-recyclables and recyclables, but you can do a lot more.

Thrifting is the way to buy goods that people no longer want, and you’re saving these items from ending up in landfills, which causes the following gases:

  • Nitrogen
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Methane
  • Hydrogen

Of course, this is just part of the benefit of thrifting. You’ll save money, but you’re also helping reduce the emission of these goods being transported and handled in landfills. Large garbage trucks don’t need to transport the goods you buy secondhand, nor do the goods need to be hauled into different areas of the landfill.

#2 – Reduce Carbon Output

Manufacturing is an intense process that causes harm to the environment in ways that many consumers overlook. For example, the manufacturing of a single chair produces a 150+ kg of CO2 output.

On top of the production emissions, these chairs often end up in landfills, where they will produce the gasses listed in the previous section.

You can even thrift cell phones. Cobalt is a main component in cellphone batteries, and if the phone ends up in a landfill, there’s no way to recycle the material.

As a consumer, small choices like thrifting clothes, furniture or even electronics will allow you to make a positive impact on the environment. You can also save a lot of money and even potentially resell the items in the future to recuperate your investment.

#3 – Lower Water Output

Water scarcity impacts over 770 million people who do not have access to clean drinking water. A single t-shirt requires 400 gallons of water if it’s made from cotton. Fast fashion’s demand on water sources is straining communities because:

  • Clean water is used for manufacturing
  • Non-drinkable water is released from the manufacturing process

Add in the fact that many people end up discarding their t-shirts (or any fashion item) within as little as ten uses and it’s easy to see how much of a negative impact not thrifting can have on the environment.

How To Thrift Shop

Thrifting can help the environment, but it also helps you keep money in your pocket. You can find amazing deals if you know where to look and what to look for when shopping.

What are the Best Things to Look for At Thrift Stores?

Whether you plan on keeping the items that you buy or want to resell them, the following always seem to be good finds:

  • Clothing: Thrifting clothes can help you find designer clothing for 20% or less of their original sale price. Many people go to Goodwill or similar stores, buy designer clothes and resell them on sites like eBay.
  • Games: Video and board games are popular items found when thrifting and will allow you to find hidden gems that are a lot of fun to play.
  • Glassware: From coffee mugs to fine China, glassware flies off of the shelves at thrift stores. You’ll even find glass sets for super cheap. You can outfit your home with beautiful glassware or fill a China cabinet.
  • Furniture: Thrift shopping can be fruitful on one trip and not the next. Furniture is one of the times when you can save substantial amounts of money on an item that may need to be sanded and stained or just needs a few additional pieces of hardware to fix.
  • Toys: A variety of toys end up in thrift stores because kids eventually outgrow them. You can find some amazing deals on toys, cribs and other child-related items.
  • Children’s Clothing: Kids grow out of their clothes rapidly, and you have the option of discarding them or selling them. You can find some amazing deals on shoes, clothing and more.

Thrifting for vintage or niche items is a lot of fun, too. You’ll find a lot of quirky and fun finds when thrifting that you wouldn’t even think of looking for when going. Even old vinyl records are easy to find.

You are also likely to find:

  • Electronics
  • Décor items
  • Books
  • Music
  • Sports equipment
  • Tools
  • Appliances
  • Bedding
  • Cooking utensils
  • Pots and pans

Some items may be in amazing shape and others may leave you wondering why the person decided to thrift the item in the first place.

Thrifting for the First Time

Thrifting in shops is one of the easiest ways to get started because you know that these shops are open. However, the shopping experience is different. For example, if you plan to go to the Goodwill, you can never be confident that they’ll:

  • Stock items that you’re looking to find
  • Offer in-season items

When you walk into most thrift stores, you sort of go bargain hunting. You browse through aisles, and you may or may not find something that you like. Vintage or designer items are often placed right in the middle of gym clothes and non-designer items. More expensive items are usually in locked glass cases, so you will need to ask the cashier to look at these items.

Don’t want to go to the Goodwill?

You can go to:

  • Flea markets
  • Estate sales
  • Consignment shops
  • Yard sales
  • Salvation Army

Local stores in your area that sell used goods are a great opportunity for thrifting. Garage sales are especially popular because people just want to be free from their “junk,” so you’ll find $20 items for $2 in some cases.

Want to find a vintage item?

You can also go to vintage-specific stores that sell older items. The main issue with vintage shopping is that these older items demand a high price. Anyone trying to get a deal on their purchase may want to avoid vintage stores.

If you want to help the environment and save money, give thrifting a try for yourself. You never know what you’ll find when walking through these stores.